Glenn Fleishman says:
NBC has scheduled the final broadcast of Friends to start tonight at 8.59 p.m. Why? To beat TiVo recording, obviously. I'm not sure if they don't want us to watch the penultimate episode of Survivor: All-Stars (confession: I'm addicted). But it's clear that starting it a minute early is intended to disrupt digital recording of shows that run 8:00 to 9:00 p.m. The fix is simple. On my ReplayTV, I just set a manual record from 9:00 to 10:00 for NBC (or I could set an 8:00 to 8:59 Survivors recording). But it's clear that this is a direct DVR pushback. But how does this help the network? I link to a post about Fear Factor in which the thread explores on a discussion board why Fear Factor was getting chopped or not recording.
UPDATE: BoingBoing reader Andrew Stern says,
"As a broadcasting student at SFSU, I suggest an alternate explanation for NBC starting Friends at 8:59PM."
Starting the BIG (for NBC) Friends finale one minute early is more about ratings and shares/HUT's (households utilizing TVs) than screwing w/ TiVo users. NBC wants to ensure a very high Nielsen rating and this will be reflected in logbooks and PPM's if the show starts earlier. Just an opinion."
Update 2: The Tivo-b0rking just doesn't stop! More readers wrote in to complain about the oddly pegged end-time. Joe says, "Regarding the timing of the Friends finale — even sneakier than the fact that it started at 8:59 was that (according to my atomic-synchronized watch) it ran until 10:03 or so. So people who Tivo'ed something other than ER at 10:00 missed the last few minutes of Friends."
Gene concurs, and adds, "Strange behavior, considering that NBC seems to partner with TiVo — they broadcast the code at enables automatic recording of their shows, and they promote their programming on TiVo's showcase function."